On September 22-23 2011, Dutch bicycle facility designers came to L.A. and worked with Angelenos to create great designs. The ThinkBike event was covered at LADOT, and L.A. Streetsblog, but the coverage didn’t include too much in the way of sharing actual designs, like S.F. Streetsblog coverage of their ThinkBike did. I figured that I would do a series of three posts (1 – Downtown, 2 – Pacoima, 3 – South L.A.) showing off more of the great work. The designs are posted at LADOT, but they’re big pdfs, difficult to search, find, and share. I’ve broken them out into place-specific entries and tried to run a lot of images and text, to make this excellent work more findable. In addition, I’ve done a fourth blog post about the overall process, which I did find a bit disappointing.
THINKBIKE 4 of 4 – OVERALL PROCESS
When a Dutch bicycle experts come to L.A. and preach the bike gospel, it’s a great thing. Orange 20, LADOT, LACBC and L.A. Streetsblog loved it. I loved it. The designs are awesome, and I hope that any and all of them get built. Then why did BikeSide, L.A. Weekly, CityWatch, and The Engaged Observer express concern over folks not being included in the process? Why wasn’t this an unqualified success that brought together L.A. bicyclists and inspired us all?
I think that some of ThinkBike’s critics focusing a bit much on fairly small detail. Caltrans’ local bike point-person Dale Benson and Rock Miller (engineer who designed many of Long Beach‘s awesome bike facilities) were sent out of the room during the design sessions. The sending off is not a good thing, but I think it’s more of symptom. In my opinion, the more fundamental issue is that ThinkBike was done in a way that has been divisive to L.A. bike communities.
As soon as I read the ThinkBike announcement, I could see it was an exclusive event. The public was invited to the opening and closing sessions only. Immediately I antcipated that this would be a contentious event that would sow divisions in the bike community.
L.A. is a big place. There are lots of great bike groups. Not everyone can be in the room at the same time… so there should have been some sort of transparent, open process by which participants were selected/invited. To this day, I still don’t know who picked whom. Was it the Dutch? the Mayor? the LADOT? the LACBC? I don’t know.
In the late 1990s I was involved in a big L.A. River charette community design workshop thing – called The River Through Downtown. It got popular, and we got as many folks in as we could, but we ran out of space and had to tell some folks that we didn’t have room for them. It was stressful, we probably had more folks participate than would have really been efficient, and a few excluded folks did resent that they weren’t at the table. So… all that to say that I know it’s a tricky balance between working quickly/efficiently, and including a large number of folks. What I am asking for – the tough work of being as inclusive as possible – isn’t easy.
- Presenters called bike facilities called “amenities.” Freeways and car-parking lots are never called amenities. Bikeways and bike parking (and sidewalks and benches) are not amenities; they are necessary indispensable components of the city’s transportation system.
- I never want to hear that L.A. street that are 40-80+feet-wide are “not wide enough for bike lanes” – as was stated a few times during ThinkBike presentations. I wrote about that here – see the italicized 5th paragraph.
- Some folks are still calling bikeways in the city’s Bike Plan as “proposed.” It’s perhaps a semantic difference that only sticklers like me care about, but after the plan was approved, these are more more appropriately referred to as “approved” or “designated.”
- One city presenter stated that ThinkBike was “a chance to work outside the constraints we have.” To me, this felt like a tacit admission that LADOT is not committed to acting to make any of the ThinkBike designs an on-the-ground reality. I guess I should be grateful that this city staffer was able to get outside the constraints… and work to change those constraints.
Overall, despite these off-notes (which, in truth were few and far between), I left the closing session feeling good about Los Angeles making some progress toward someday becoming a city that respects safe bicycling. We’re not there yet… and it’s good that we’re looking to the Dutch for advice.
Let’s go build these wonderful designs!!